I begin my walk at the street that’s directly opposite ‘work’ and the Coca-Cola woman says ‘good morning’ with a huge smile on seeing me, it is the same smile that greets me when I come to buy Coca-Cola from her. I do not quite like that smile and how she brings out the Coca-Cola and gets the exact change to the two-headed naira note folded in my purse, while I am still saying ‘good morning’. Accepting an addiction to Coca-Cola is one thing but it is the nonchalance about predicting my choices that annoys me. Never mind that my brothers believe they can quote my thoughts on any subject or how friends I haven’t seen in years know to have dodo and Coca-Cola when I visit, I just do not like to think that I am predictable.
I reply her greeting and her smile, her daughter waves at me. The girl has her mother’s ink-blank complexion but while her mother looks like she needs no makeup to fill the role of an Iyalaje in a Yoruba Nollywood movie, her daughter’s face needs no beauty because she has a body that was built for lurid fantasies and a shiny monument to sin. I like how seriously she takes her role in her mother’s business which involves the sale of alcoholic drinks and the rash of men that come with it, I hope for her sake that if she has to eat a Frog (In this Victoria Island, it is only a matter of time) she would choose the fattest one and pop it into her mouth delicately.
I sprint to the edge of the road to avoid getting a brown splash stain on my skirt but the driver slows down and waves apologetically- this must be my day for being waved at, I think. A little red car with yellow wheels catches my attention, the woman selling sweets and cigarettes at the corner where the street curves put her child in it. A brand-new version of that car would be worth more than all the contents of her table, but this one with its faded patches speaks of the offhand benevolence of the rich. Not that the child in the car would notice, being less than a year old, every inch covered in fabric, shiny eyes lined with kajal exploring the world and its tiny hands tightly clasping the steering wheel. It is the look on its mother’s face as she adjusts the child that gets to me, that mix of awe and love and sadness, I know that look intimately, my heart tightens and I walk a little faster.
Two hundred or so meters later, I come up to the new block of flats that will definitely not have the Naira anywhere near discussions about leasing or renting, only the big boys of the currency world will be let in. I have fallen in love with the windows and the detail of the balcony railings and the soft cream marble exterior and the gently curving shape of the building, the rooms will be tiny but the huge windows will give an illusion of space on sunny days. Those windows always remind me of the house in my head, the one that will come after I have hammered all the nails and can sing the chorus of Davido’s IF with certainty, I wonder how long it would be before I find the hammer, before all the lines align.
A white Toyota HiAce bus flashes past me and I remember another HiAce bus I saw yesterday. I was standing on the median that separates the BRT lane from the road, across from the marina, a few meters away from CMS bus stop. The bus I had boarded to Victoria Island had broken down and the conductor went back to CMS to get another bus, a few minutes had already gone past 8 am and I was not in the best of moods. The driver leant against the bus, looking like he was waiting for a photographer to immortalise his nonchalance. My fists were clenched at my side with my eyes trained on the driver when I heard my name from a voice that had to be female, I turned to see a cream HiAce with the name of a government office stencilled on the side.
“I read your posts on Facebook,” she said and her words unlocked a smile I wouldn’t have thought possible thirty seconds before.
“She writes,” she said to someone on the bus and I bent to see her face.
I couldn’t make out who it was, the interior of the bus was dark, traffic suddenly eased and the bus sped past. Another five minutes or more passed before the new bus came and in that time, I pondered on the meaning of life to avoid going to the driver and giving him, a small taste of rage and irritation simmered to perfection.
The memory makes me smile and unclench the fist I didn’t even know I had made.